While it’s easy to understand why we did quarter-mile and hill-climb acceleration testing, some might wonder why we ran the V-6 work trucks through an autocross course.
We needed to push these trucks to the extreme to test their ride, handling and stability control capabilities in slalom conditions, hard stops, 90- and 180-degree turns, and rapid, tight maneuvers. This provides an idea of how the trucks might react to emergency or adverse road conditions. In a world where cars and crossovers are getting smaller, it’s best if you can avoid those vehicles in critical situations.
Each truck carried out a minimum of three runs, with 1,200 pounds payload in the bed, by the same driver. Traction control was enabled. The quickest lap time determined the best-performing truck.
Of all the timed tests, this one was where speed and power made the least difference. Suspension composure and vehicle stability control were just as important.
Just 2 seconds and less than 1 mph average speed separated the quickest from the slowest truck around the 3,000-foot track.
The Ford F-150 finished the course in 69.92 seconds at an average speed of 32.34 mph. It split the difference in composure and body roll between the Ram, which had a challenging time in the hairpin turns, and GMC Sierra, which offered the most confidence rallying around the track. Awesome power from the 3.7 propelled the F-150 to a top speed of 58.41 mph at the finish line, but that speed in other areas of the course had to be scrubbed off with extra effort from the driver throughout almost every turn. This is one example where too much power can get you into trouble if you don’t know your truck’s limits. We also encountered some rear axle hop under wide open throttle in the straightaway, once.
The Ram 1500 was the slowest truck, finishing in 71.62 seconds at an average speed of 31.53 mph and trap speed of 52.43 mph. It seemed to have the most difficult time of the three keeping its coil spring rear end from wallowing around the corners, which would seem counterintuitive because we expected the multilink rear end to be an asset in managing the high lateral forces we put on the trucks. Understeer was also an issue. The front suspension dived noticeably entering tight turns but felt much better through the sweepers.
The Sierra 1500 felt the best going through the course, and we weren’t the only ones. Spectators watching the autocross also noted how much better the Sierra looked than its two competitors at all points through the cones. Body roll, steering, brakes and traction control all worked well together to give us the most confidence that this is the truck we’d like to have if we had to make emergency maneuvers. The Sierra finished a few ticks behind the F-150, in 71.04 seconds at an average speed of 31.73 mph and 51.92 mph at the finish.